Security ramped up at Summit County facilities
Summit County residents may notice something different the next time they visit several of the county’s facilities.
The county is planning to implement security measures at the buildings on various ends of the county after the new year to address safety vulnerabilities, said Janna Young, deputy county manager.
Young said there was not a specific incident that led to the decision to ramp up security. But, she said an active shooter drill the Summit County Sheriff’s Office led in early 2017 sparked the discussions that caused county officials to assess the safety of county buildings, particularly the County Courthouse in Coalville.
“In the complex of all the mass shootings that take place across the country where hundreds of people have been killed and wounded, we were looking at this from the perspective of this could happen anywhere,” she said. “While we are lucky that we live in a calm and small community, it does not make us immune.”
Most of the county’s administrative departments, including those of the assessor, attorney, clerk and auditor, are housed in the County Courthouse.
The public can easily access the building currently through various entrances, none of which are locked during regular business hours. However, some of the new measures that will be implemented at the Courthouse include reducing the number of entrances that will be open to the public.
Beginning Jan. 1, there will be two dedicated public entrances to the Courthouse, with the rest of the doors only accessible to employees who have a county-issued badge. Young emphasized, though, that the building will still be open and accessible after hours for public meetings or hearings.
“We know that since we have public facilities, we could be vulnerable to this type of thing happening,” Young said of the possibility of an emergency. “But, it is important that we maintain that public access because providing services is the whole reason we are here.”
The other buildings where new measures will be put in place after the first of the year are the county Health Department and the Sheldon Richins Building.
Young said the county plans to address some of the same access vulnerabilities at the Health Department by reducing the number of doors that the public can enter, as well as enhancing the front desk area to provide more protection for staffers if an active shooter were to enter the building.
“We have looked at the exits and entrances at the lower parts of the building that we may need to secure and we have done that,” she said. “A lot of this stuff was in the works before voters passed Proposition 2 and the state decided Health Departments will be a dispensary for medical marijuana. But, since that time we have included that in the discussion.”
Security cameras and distress buttons will be installed at the Sheldon Richins Building in Kimball Junction, which contains the Summit County Library and Division of Motor Vehicles.
The security upgrades were included in the 2018 budget costs for programming, Young said. She said county officials have spent the last year educating staffers about the new measures. She added, “We wanted to get the information out to the public and put signage on our doors.”
“We don’t anticipate something happening with an active shooter,” she said. “We just had to be responsible to our public and employees to make sure we were trying to mitigate threats as much as we could, while maintaining public access to our services. It’s not just active shooters that this will protect us from. It is any type of threat or situation. We want to give employees the tools to deescalate situations if we get members of public that might be upset about what we have done.”
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Jenn Armstrong-Solomon provides the services of her trauma-sensitive yoga nonprofit, Tall Mountain Wellness, free of charge to groups like the Summit County Drug Court and the county jail.